Railfan Fest 2021 Roundup



April 15th, 2021

Last weekend saw us host the first ever Railfan Fest, online through YouTube, Twitch and Facebook across Saturday 10th & Sunday 11th April! The event featured a wide range of segments from the worlds of modeling, simulation and railfanning and was done in partnership with Dovetail Games, who let viewers take a glimpse at the inner-workings of their Train Simulator and Train Sim World products. Below we take a look at highlights of the event:

Heritage bookends the show:

Railfan Fest kicked off in style with some fantastic opening shots of the 92203 Black Prince in action on the North Norfolk Railway in England. This impressive locomotive, built in 1959 and once owned by David Shepherd, is now taken care for by the Friends of Black Prince and Mark Powley spoke to Railfan TV presenter and Train Sim Community Manager Jamie about the locomotive and the work done by its friends to keep it in tip-top shape! The NNR also closed off the event with some superb 'Driver's Eye' footage from the front of BR Standard 4 76084 which powers along the line through Weybourne to Holt. A collection of other locomotives and rolling stock can be seen on the way.

The NNR didn't take all the heritage glory however. Film maker Chris Eden-Green showcased some of his professionally shot documentary-style footage of the Kent & East Sussex Railway's Terrier Locomotives which prepare for their 150th anniversary in 2022. Chris's collection of DVDs that he has made can be found over on his website.

The Beer Heights Light Railway on England's Jurassic Coast represented the minimum gauge scene with a 'Driver's Eye' view from their railway, first opened in 1976. Though not a typical heritage railway, the 7 1/4 inch gauge layout is one of the longest in the UK and with a 40+ year history its locomotives and rolling stock are a joy to watch. The locomotive in question is Jimmy, a diesel hydaulic built in 1986. The BHLR plans to reopen on 18th May 2021 and you can find out more on the Pecorama website.

Live segments from both sides of the Atlantic:

Though some of the segments for Railfan Fest were pre-recorded, both nights featured live interviews with Saturday night hosting both the London Transport Museum and Amtrak for details of their latest endeavours. Chris and Siddy from the LTM took viewers through a sample of their virtual tours, which allow visitors to take a look at locations from the London Underground's past that wouldn't normally be accessible for those on 'real life' tours. As well as some fascinating stories and facts about some of the stations and wartime facilities, the live segment threw to some video footage from inside the locations themselves. More about the virtual tours can be found here: London Transport Museum Virtual Tours Brompton-Road-Underground-station--1907-copyright-TfL-2001-55802 Brompton Road Underground Station c.1907. © TfL 2001 55802.

Amtrak similarly had a lot to talk about with 2021 marking their 50th year in the railroading business. Representative Matt talked live to host Nat about what 50 years has meant for the brand and to railfans and took a number of questions live from the chat function on YouTube, Twitch and Facebook. A lot of viewers were quick to point out the adorable plushie seen in the background - available to purchase at the Amtrak Online Shop. The interview was accompanied by videos showing the history of Amtrak's paint schemes and liveries, something they have used to great effect in celebrating the half-century.

Railroads and the American Dream

Continuing the theme of rail state-side, We Are Railfans' Joe sat down to talk trains in two interviews about the scene in the USA. First up was British Designer Ian Logan who discussed his latest book (co-authored with Jonathan Glancey) entitled LOGOMOTIVE which takes readers through a journey of railroad art, logos, liveries and advertising material. Clearly an expert in this field, Ian went on to talk about how he got into the romance, grandeur and impressive tales offered by railroads in America, including details of his firsthand experience crossing the USA by train in the 1970s. His book, available through Sheldrake Press, was released on 1st and 21st April in the UK and USA respectively. LOGOMOTIVE-Sheldrake-Ian-Logan

New Jersey Transit also spoke about the dramatic side of railroading with Joe and Jamie and opened their segment with a look at how their stations have been used in Hollywood movies over the years. Vaughan Williams, Chief Marketing Officer for NJ Transit spoke about how this is organised for big blockbusters like Catch Me If You Can and Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises before going on to talk about what the railroad is doing to encourage passengers to take to the rails again during the global pandemic. In addition to taking time to improve the railroad infrastructure, NJT is also looking at features like its new reward scheme and making ticketing options better for commuters in the New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania areas. More details on that can be found here.

Modeling Mania:

As one of the most popular hobbies for railfans, modeling had to be and was a considerable feature of Railfan Fest 2021. Two of the biggest names in the business, Hornby and PECO, presented VTs with the former showing how modeling has become an iconic and even emotional journey for railfans in the last 100 years with testimonials and recollections by the likes of record producer Pete Waterman. They also showcased some of the amazing products they have produced over the decades, like the ever-popular Smokey Joe. Details of the range can be found here.

PECO took the tutorial stance and guided viewers through making examples of their wide range of kits. Presenter Kevin went through step-by-step how to best construct the Country Station and Wills Kits Retaining Wall before Sales Manager Steve explained how the company, which still proudly makes all its products out of the small village of Beer, has had to adapt in the last 12 months to cope with demand. Their range of products can be viewed here. PECO-Railfan-Fest-Screen-Grab Still from the Railfan Fest segment by PECO.

N-Gauge has historically not been as popular with modelers as the larger OO and HO gauges, but in an insightful interview hosted by Sam, two experts in the field gave viewers plenty of reason to reconsider 'N'. Ben Ando will be familiar to people as a broadcaster, journalist and writer but he also co-directs Revolution Trains who specialise in producing N-Gauge rolling stock. He was joined by N-Gauge Society member Robin Grubba and together they spoke with great enthusiasm and knowledge about why N-Gauge is in many ways so much more suited to modelers of today. Revolution Trains' unique selection of items can be found here and people wanting more info on the N-Gauge Society can do so here. Revolution-Pendolino-Kinlet-Wharf A Revolution Trains Virgin Pendolino at 'Kinlet Wharf'. Photo courtesy of Revolution Trains.

Behind the Scenes at Train Simulator and Train Sim World

Many viewers tuned into Railfan Fest to see more about the inner workings of Dovetail Games, who presented a number of features taking a look behind the scenes. This included amazing insights into how the company build routes from scratch in the virtual world and what considerations, tools, programs and techniques are used to achieve the supreme levels of realism that players admire so much. Similarly, developers and staff spoke about the same process for locomotive building, highlighting just how much work, effort, time and skill goes into each and every process required to bring some of the most iconic, enjoyable and complex locomotives to virtual life. In addition, Joe spoke to illustrator Tom Connell about his skills creating the artwork for recent releases like Clinchfield and Southeastern Highspeed and how he first got into trains and art. Tom-Connell-Southeastern-Highspeed Image courtesy of Tom Connell / Dovetail Games.

JD also hosted a brilliant, casual and lighthearted roundtable with Matt, Adam, Rob and Derek who discussed everything from their favourite routes, locomotives, experience driving real life trains, what they'd like to see given 'free reign' to develop a route and much more. Railfan Fest also saw plenty of engagement with the Train Sim Community, including popular YouTubers LaZeR JET and Blue Games, who gave their thoughts on the products, advice for newcomers to the hobby and what their favourite aspects of Dovetail's products are. At the end of the event, JD and Matt also spoke briefly about the forthcoming 'Rush Hour' and 'Steam' developments for Train Sim World and showed exclusive screenshots of the DB BR 101 locomotive and Cane Creek Union Pacific route.

We hope you enjoyed the first ever Railfan Fest! All of the segments will be available to watch on both the We Are Railfans and Train Simulator YouTube Channels and the full event can replayed on Twitch and Facebook too.

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